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Home garden in Japan

 
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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I pseudo-inherited our current property here in Japan.

When I got here it was an overgrown mess of bonsai plants that had rooted through their pots into a gravel lot that had layers of grass trying to form a new soil layer on top. There were a lot of trees planted too closely for natural growth that had grown into each other, blocking light to others plants and trees. There were styrofoam boxes, plastic flower pots, plastic sheet mulch, various agro-containers, and all sorts of other junk in various states of decay. I still unearth steel tool heads and shards of plastic when I move dirt. There were three plastic tunnels, and two out buildings when I got here. The largest greenhouse reached the end of its lifespan and I found a taker who got it off my hands. Another I recently took down, but there is still a concrete slab poured there. The last green house I have left for the time being. I may use it for starting seed trays.

I have spent the last five years mostly just clearing the junk and trying to prune the trees back to the intended state. It has been an educational experience. So far the biggest impact has been the development of a serious hatred of plastic. Anyone who says plastic doesn't breakdown clearly hasn't cleaned up broken down plastic... because it is the most painstaking cleanup I have ever done, especially here where we have to sort our garbage. I have still not decided completely how to deal with the gravel situation, ultimately I want to clear it and replace it with low plants and groundcover, but that is easier said than done.

I now have a rough vegetable garden built mostly in raised beds built over piles of tree prunings (hugelkultur). The trees have been pruned enough to let light into the garden and we now have blooming and fruiting trees again. I've also cleared out one of the outbuildings that was full to the brim with ancient junk and am slowly preparing to turn it into a woodworking shop - I like working outside, but mosquitoes and heat make it impossible for 5 months out of the year.

My future plans are to complement the current fruit tree assortment and improve my vegetable growing game. I'm learning a lot about the native flora as a lot of it grows in my garden. Also learning about the bugs, fungi, and other critters that find there way in. I have a lot to learn still, but I got a nice vegetable harvest last year and hope to do a better and more nature friendly one every year from here on out.

I will post photos and details of various aspects of this garden project.
 
gardener
Posts: 1033
Location: Western Washington
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Thank you for sharing! I look forward to photos
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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The current state of things as of December 2020

This is my vegetable garden with hugelkultur raised beds. I missed the last planting season, so things are more barren than I wish, I just finished planting the few things I still could and I'm only now getting to covering up the unused beds with mulch. I have some volunteer potatoes, nasturtiums, and watercress. Otherwise I've planted lettuce, carrots, spinach, bok choy, peas, and garlic. Many of the seeds were old, so this is kind of a throw-away season for growing, mostly just getting ready for the coming spring planting.

On the right side you can barely make out a couple apple saplings. Behind them are two local citrus trees that grow well here but produce very sour fruit like a lemon, not the go-to choice for a snack. On the left you can see a mature persimmon tree and chestnut tree. I'm doing my best to prune them back so they stop dropping leaves on the roof of that outbuilding and so that I can get more access to their produce. The greenhouse pictured here I am planning to use as a greenhouse in the future, but for now its just storage. The other building was just a storage building that I'm slowly getting ready to turn into a woodshop.


Here is a detail of the lanes between the raised beds. I use the small clippings from trees and wood shavings as a mulch, it is giving me mixed results. Really I need a thicker mulch of more finely chopped materials. But the labor involved in getting that is not worth it, so I get a lot of weeds growing through, especially on the margins. I should plant something I want, but I'm just not on top of it.


Here is an older picture from when I was putting the beds together, you can see the wood I buried under the raised beds.



This is the area where gravel was lain in an attempt to prevent weed growth... but was not maintained or weeded in anyway, creating a gravel/sod mixture that has been one of the biggest annoyances of this plot. Gravel is very popular as a ground cover in Japanese home gardens. This part of the garden is mostly ornamental flowering plants like azaleas, camellia, cherry, magnolia, and the like, and now they do blossom but the appearance is marred by the spotty gravel. The flower pots are my herbs with no home in the ground yet. Most of them I will plant out except the lemon balm and mint, which needs to stay in a pot.


I'll cover other detail areas in future posts. I've been studying the plants growing here for 5 years, and there are hundreds of varieties... Some natural, some introduced.


 
gardener
Posts: 560
Location: Southern Germany
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Congrats! You have achieved a lot in the past 5 years through hard labour.

The garden has a nice size so you have lots of possibilities.
I am looking forward to more pictures and progress reports.
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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I'm in zone 9b and my primary garden area is partial shade, yet things grow anyway.

I'm open to suggestions for how to use spaces or species to cultivate
 
gardener
Posts: 2046
Location: South of Capricorn
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Welcome Lew, look forward to seeing more of what you're doing there.
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
64
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Fruiting trees, shrubs, and vines:

The first picture was originally a somei-ishino clone that died back to its root stock and grew out from there, so it produces reasonably sized sour cherries now, though very few because it hasn't been getting enough light, air, and wasn't developing horizontal branches until last year or so.

The second is our ume tree. This one makes large fruit that are suited towards liquor infusions such as umeshu or Japanese plum wine. I'm hoping to try doing umeboshi or pickled Japanese plums with them, even though they're not the typical variety.

The red flowering plant is a Japanese quince. It is mostly an ornamental, but it does produce fruit. I haven't yet tried doing anything with the quinces, they're inedible without processing.

More to come.



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Lew Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
64
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Fruiting trees, shrubs, and vines:

Our plethora of persimmons.

I have one probable volunteer, the fruits are the size of golf balls and mostly full of seeds. I may try pruning it back and using it as root stock for grafting. (edit: I have now cut it back to about 1 meter)

And of all we have only one non-astringent variety. Until that is, I graft some of it onto the one mentioned above.


more to come
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And this last one is our only non-astringent persimmon.
And this last one is our only non-astringent persimmon.
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This one is probably a volunteer, the fruits are the size of golf balls and mostly full of seeds. I may try pruning it back and using it as root stock for grafting:
This one is probably a volunteer, the fruits are the size of golf balls and mostly full of seeds. I may try pruning it back and using it as root stock for grafting:
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
64
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Fruiting trees, shrubs, and vines:

Our mulberry tree was a bonsai that rooted through its pot. It's way too close to the house, but I prune it heavily to keep it from being a danger. It produces hordes of berries every year, and I freeze them.

Our two citrus trees were a puzzle to me for a while until I asked a friend who grows citrus. The one bearing yellow fruits is called konatsu and the one with orange fruits is called Shimanto bushukan. The former is eaten sliced and peeled with the white pith left on, the latter is picked green and used like a lime, usually squeezed over grilled fish. Personally I like the bushukan juice in soda water with salt as a summer power drink.


Our beloved kumquat tree, called kinkan in Japanese. My son loves picking and eating them straight off the tree, and I enjoy them too. They also make a terrific marmalade.

Our chestnut tree. It makes wonderful chestnuts that are large and sweet. The only problem is it has grown over the outbuilding and drops leaves and chestnuts onto the roof, which has been causing a lot of clogged gutters and spawning mosquitoes. I am pruning back the neighboring persimmon tree so that they can share the light and grow straight in the future (if they survive).

A plum tree. I pruned it heavily this year for the same reason as above - it was causing clogged gutters. We'll see if it survives. The fruit was quite sour anyway, so honestly I'm not terribly sad if it's a lost cause.

The mate to the plum tree, it needs attention. It's currently hosting our chayote vine growth and has a lot of twisted and broken branches as a result. It barely gets enough light in this corner to flower, but somehow manages almost every year to produce fruit.

Our chayote vines. Last year we had over 150 chayotes, I pulled some of the vines early in the season this year though, so we didn't get as many... but honestly it's hard to use 150 chayotes in a year anyway.

Our pawpaw tree. I was amazed that we had one here... as it's neither native nor popular here. The tree only produces 3-6 fruit a year, and none of us really like them.

Our grape vine used to produce quite a few tiny grapes when I first moved here, but it got devastated in a typhoon. I found it growing up a tree the other year, surprised that it had come back, and I trained it back up our car shade. Hopefully it will produce for us again next year.

We had a peach tree that I discovered for the first time fruiting last year... and then it fell over in a typhoon. The base of the trunk had bad rot in it because it was hidden behind an opaque vinyl tunnel and wasn't getting any air. I had hoped to start enjoying peaches, and then it died. I'm trying to salvage the wood as spoons. It is a joy to carve.

I discovered hirsute raspberries last year too. They grow wild here and after identifying the plant I decided to let it spread. It is thorny, but the fruit is delicious.

Lastly are my recent additions:
Two apple trees, three blackberry canes, four blueberry bushes. Most are still quite young but we had a crop of three blue berries this year! Haha.
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Posts: 591
Location: Abkhazia · Cfa (humid subtropical) - temperate · clay soil
70
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Lew, you linked the photos from google. They show up for you as you are logged in, but everyone else just sees a forbidden icon.

Attaching the files to the post is much more reliable.
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
64
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Working on it...
 
pollinator
Posts: 336
Location: Worcestershire, England
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Lew Johnson wrote:
The red flowering plant is a Japanese quince. It is mostly an ornamental, but it does produce fruit. I haven't yet tried doing anything with the quinces, they're inedible without processing.



I freeze mine then squeeze them apparently they have 4x the amount of vit C than lemons (so very good if you get sick) tastes somewhat similar to lemon too. Would be interested to know what the Japanese do with them though.
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
64
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I have this concrete slab poured where a vinyl tunnel stood in back corner of my garden. I could use some ideas of ways to make it useful as is before I spend the effort to break it up. It's about 2x5 meters or a little bigger.

Base for a garden living room? Space for a BBQ pit? That's about all I've got...

Suggestions?
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Sebastian Köln
Posts: 591
Location: Abkhazia · Cfa (humid subtropical) - temperate · clay soil
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2m by 5m … would make for a nice shed if one of the long sides is left open.

Or a table and 6 chairs.
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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Henry Jabel wrote: Would be interested to know what the Japanese do with them though.



My understanding is the few people who do anything with them use them as a liquor infusion, like umeshu (plum wine). I read that the taste is quite medicinal though, so it only appeals to a certain kind of person.
 
Lew Johnson
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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Sebastian Köln wrote:2m by 5m … would make for a nice shed if one of the long sides is left open.

Or a table and 6 chairs.



It would be perfect for a shed, but it's right behind another out-building that I've just cleared out to use as a workshop/storage.

Outdoor table and chairs is kind of where my thoughts were going too... but it's situated in kind of an awkward angle with relation to the garden. I will sketch-up the garden plan and post it here.
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
64
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This is a quick overlay I drew up to roughly sketch out the garden overtop of the google maps satellite image.

Though things are more or less in location, I didn't measure anything, and the photo is old, so some of it is guess work. There are more trees than represented here, and I know some of the ???s but I can't recall off the top of my head, and google lens doesn't work so well in winter.
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Sebastian Köln
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If you are allowed to cut wood from the forest, it could work well as wood storage/drying place.
A shed might take too much sun away from the Persimmon?
 
Lew Johnson
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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Sebastian Köln wrote:If you are allowed to cut wood from the forest, it could work well as wood storage/drying place.
A shed might take too much sun away from the Persimmon?



True, it can be good to have concrete under lumber drying... that's a good idea. I mean I do have piles of logs there now anyway, hah. But I could build a little shelter. I can't log from the woods beside me, they're private property, but I do have very cheap access to low-medium quality cedar and cypress, that's what I built my hugel beds and shaving horse with.
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
64
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Filling in more details on this sketch. Things are layered so much here it's actually hard to keep it legible. I kind of want to put up those placards you see in botanical gardens, just so I can keep track of everything...
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Lew Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
64
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Posting this here sort of as an organizer. I have a lot of small goals within my garden, each is a project in and of itself, but here is the master-list as it currently stands.

Things I'd like to do.

Growing and Food prep →
Propagate mint and lemonbalm.
Borrow or buy a paddy and grow rice
Grow chinese cabbage and make kimchi and tsukemono
Grow cabbage and make sauerkraut
Grow cucumbers and make pickles and relish
Grow daikon and turnips and make tsukemono
Grow chilli peppers and make my own mild hot sauce
Grow sesame seeds
Grow ginger
Use garden plants and flowers for decorations and garnishes -> Especially: Nandina, ハラン (aspidistra elatior), nasturtium, bay, jap. Honeywort, and other herbs
Learn to make stuffed grape leaves (dolmas) and/or stuffed nasturtiums.
Grow mushrooms

Drying and Preserving →
Dry sage, thyme, and mint.
Dry peppermint and chamomile for tea.
Dry orange peels.
Dry apples, persimmons, apricots, sweet potatoes
Sun-dry tomatoes
Make apple cider vinegar
Dry and pickle ume to make umeboshi
Make kumquat marmalade (done), blueberry, strawberry, and blackberry jam

Woodworking and Crafts →
Seal and dry reasonably sized pruned branches from good woods like cherry, plum, laurel, maple to make small crafts.
Carve a full set of wooden kitchen utensils and tableware
Replace missing tool handles with available wood.
Make a shaving horse (done)
Make a solar dehydrator
Make a treadle lathe
Make a Japanese planing board (in progress)
Turn chess pieces and make other wooden board games.
Make a miniature buried root cellar for storing extras.
Make a holiday wreath (done with mulberry, nandina, and bay laurel)

Animals →
Keep chickens and or ducks, at least for eggs, possibly for meat in the future.
Perhaps one day raise rabbits for eating, depending on quite a few factors.
Perhaps one day rebuild a koi pond.
Record bird species visitors
Learn to recognize various small critters and insects in various stages of their life.
Perhaps raise beetles (if it's something my kids are interested in)

Foraging →
Locate and record our mountain producers like bamboo shoots and chestnuts.
Make a full catalog of plants growing in my garden and other land.
Learn to identify common Japanese mountain vegetables like warabi, zenmai, itadori, and udo.
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
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Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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War on mosquitoes.

We have had an extraordinary number of mosquitoes here. Living beside a forested mountain some are inevitable, but the number getting in the house has been absurd even in the winter, when usually we see neither head nor tail of them.

From what I understand, mosquitoes need standing water, preferably with substantial organic material in it to lay eggs. So, let's eliminate all vectors!

When I first arrived on this property there were countless flower pots, styrofoam containers and other water collecting vessels strewn about the garden. My first step in the clean-up was removing all of these. I have done most of this but don't have photos of it.

Next were the green houses. We had three that were in disrepair. I have removed two. I intend to repair the third and use it for growing starts (and maybe pineapple) in the near future.

This winter I have finally pruned the trees that were dropping leaves into the gutters of our house and outbuildings. The next step was cleaning the gutters. This is in progress. One is fully cleared and documented in the pep badge thread for cleaning/improving gutters. Two more need more attention.

I also have a concrete gutter that divides the property into two plots. It is missing cover blocks and is filled up with dirt, run-off, moss and other goodies. I don't know if it's a real vector, but it seems possible and it should probably be cleaned out for drainage purposes anyway. So here we go! The bonus is, the moss growing there is perfect for filling the gaps in my raised beds and the dirt sifts out to beautiful black growing medium. I will be buying replacement blocks to cover this gutter soon.

After that is done the remaining vectors are a little opaque to me. I do have some plastic agro containers sitting outside that hold some water. I've been trying to find someone to take a lot of these off my hands. I really only use a few for sorting pruned wood and rocks from the garden.

Apparently mosquitoes can breed in the septic tank too... I wonder if there is a way to check/prevent that without calling in the company.



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gardener
Posts: 492
Location: Nara, Japan. Zone 8-ish
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Looks like things are coming along!

We had mosquitoes breeding in the botton toilet(the old just a concrete hole with a toilet seat over it style). They were getting in through the urinal drain, plus the countless cracks in the walls. So if you have a separate urinal that goes straight to the septic tank, that's one way they could get in. They might also get in through the outflow pipe. Depends on how modern your system is. I think you can just open the lid and take a peek if you are brave...but I would think you would notice adults congregating around wherever they were getting in.

If there are a lot of akiya around your place, you might take a look around the houses and dump any standing water you find. Be sure to weigh the vessel down with a rock or something after you turn it so it doesn't blow away. I don't think anyone would give you a hard time for doing mosquito patrol.
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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I've continued working on all the projects.

I also whipped together a quick leaf collection bin from some wire netting I had. I'm hoping to turn it into some leaf mould potting soil for starting seeds in the future. I get a lot of leaf drop from the mountain trees.

It's also a pretty time in the garden. The quinces, cherry trees, camellia, sazanqa, and magnolia blossoms have passed their time and are leafing out, while the daffodils, tulips, and a few others come into bloom. I posted a few pictures of what's pretty now. Soon the azaleas and rhododendrons will bloom too.

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Technically Arisaema Sikokianum. This is an interesting plant with a very remarkable but inedible fruit
Technically Arisaema Sikokianum. This is an interesting plant with a very remarkable but inedible fruit
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Posts: 14
Location: Shizuoka Japan
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Hello and greetings from Shizuoka

With the back of the property right up behind what is essentially a cliff I think you need to put some thought it how you want the water to flow around, past and through your property. Especially with "Tsu Yu" approaching in July.

The trees at the back of the property are exposed to falling rock but I suppose thats its better to have them there to block any flow off the cliffside.

...

Regarding mosquitoes I was able to reduce their numbers in the house by patching gaps in the roof shingles, mounting nets on every window and door and by encouraging others to keep doors and windows closed. Sadly if there any standing water on the land above your house then these blood predators will be swarming. Is there any way to get to the top of the rise to get a good lay of the land from above ?
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
Posts: 183
Location: Japan, roughly zone 9b - wet and warm climate
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Water flow from the mountain is negligible. It all channels into a waterfall and stream nearby. Likewise barring the nankai earthquake in it's worst incarnation, the retaining walls will hold the landslides.

Yes, windows are also vectors that need checking annually. I've also netted our kitchen ventilation hood fan. I also recently discovered the front door had a small bottom gap that needs to be addressed.
 
Paul Canosa
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Location: Shizuoka Japan
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Lew Johnson wrote:Water flow from the mountain is negligible. It all channels into a waterfall and stream nearby. Likewise barring the nankai earthquake in it's worst incarnation, the retaining walls will hold the landslides.

Yes, windows are also vectors that need checking annually. I've also netted our kitchen ventilation hood fan. I also recently discovered the front door had a small bottom gap that needs to be addressed.



even during the rainy season ?

wow what good fortune
 
Lew Johnson
pollinator
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Paul Canosa wrote:
wow what good fortune



I would attribute it to good civil engineering following a disastrous landslide 50 years ago.

Our village has had bad fortune with water. There has been a tremendous amount of money and work spent on flood management.
 
Paul Canosa
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Lew Johnson wrote:

Paul Canosa wrote:
wow what good fortune



I would attribute it to good civil engineering following a disastrous landslide 50 years ago.

Our village has had bad fortune with water. There has been a tremendous amount of money and work spent on flood management.



So it did give way after all eh ?
 
Lew Johnson
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I've been doing some more plant IDs. I filled in a few more of the question marks on my overlay. Today I learned of the existence of the Barberry plant. I still have a couple plants that I'm having trouble IDing.

I use the English name when it's easily identifiable, or the Japanese name when the species is uncommon outside of Japan or it's a Japanese cultivar, especially with citrus fruits.
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What is this tree? Some kind of maple?
What is this tree? Some kind of maple?
 
Amy Arnett
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Posts: 492
Location: Nara, Japan. Zone 8-ish
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Could be a momiji maple. Once the leaves fill out, it will be easier to tell...
 
Posts: 8
Location: Nikko-shi, Japan
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Hi Lew,  

Somewhere in here -- I can't recall where -- there is a post on a guy who dug out an old swimming pool and inadvertently turned it into a frog pond. One of the good things about it was that the frogs ate most of the mosquitoes.  If you can encourage insect-eating birds to hang out around your property that would also be a plus, but I can't help you with a specific species.  You'll never get rid of them completely because of your proximity to the National Forest.  I just moved to Nikko, purchasing a home near Urami Falls in the National Forest, so I have a similar problem (plus monkeys and the rare but scary bear). I have a very small but beautifully aged water vessel.  I'm thinking of turning it into the world's tiniest frog pond for the same reason -- mozzie control. Best of luck with all your projects, and good for you to take on the inherited land.
 
Barbara Manning
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https://permies.com/t/9184/Bats-effective-insect-control  Consider also bats.  If I can invite them into the area (not my home) they will protect the local environment.
 
Lew Johnson
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Amy Arnett wrote:Could be a momiji maple. Once the leaves fill out, it will be easier to tell...



Got it today! It's shirakashi or what the Japanese call White Oak, though not the same species as the western white oak.
 
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